The antisocial criterion for learning
There’s this cool thing in developmental psychology called the social criterion for learning. Here’s a diagram I use to describe this to my students. Imagine that you’re a baby learning words.
An adult is labeling an object for you and says BUNNY, but you happen to be looking at a chipmunk. You learn the label BUNNY for the object chipmunk and are forever confused. You don’t get into Harvard and end up homeless.
How do children avoid this trap? It turns out that they check the gaze of the person labeling an object before they learn the label. This can be seen in observational studies and in cleverly-designed controlled experiments. Not every time, and not when an adult is touching at an object (because in that case it’s not necessary–pointing substitutes for gaze), but in general.
In our house a slightly different mechanism is at work. I’ll label an object for Bunlet, and we’ll have a normal social criterion for learning exchange…but then Bun Bun will stick herself in front of him and loudly give it a different label. Often pointing to the object. She seems to be trying to confuse him. It’s like she’s using an antisocial criterion for learning.
Fortunately, she’s labeling pretty much everything as BUNNY, so I think he’ll figure that shit out at some point.